I haven’t posted an update or sent a newsletter in a while, and that’s because I’ve been doing edits for Darksoul, which have now been handed in. Huzzah! If all goes well, what I get back next should be copy edits. If all does not go well – meaning if I made some fundamental error in the editing process – I’ll get back something more detailed and may well end up doing a chunk of editing plus copy edits. I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen.
I was at Super Relaxed Fantasy Club in London on 27 March, where I spoke briefly about the editing process – having handed in Darksoul just a few days before. It can be summed up thusly – I am one of those unfortunates who suffers with Second Book Syndrome.
I struggled a lot with Darksoul, I’m not going to lie or pretend I didn’t, because that serves no one, me or any writers out there who might wonder what writing a trilogy is actually like. Darksoul was the first book I was writing under contract and under deadline, and that meant that my previous process – of taking THIRTEEN YEARS to write a decent book – had to be accelerated somewhat swiftly!!
As such, we went through more rounds of edits than probably expected by everyone, and I had a fair few crises of confidence. We had to push back the publication date by a few months, which I was devastated about at the time. While I absolutely agree with that decision, I spent a lot of time sulking (and a little bit of time crying) because I’d ruined Harper Voyager’s publishing schedule and let them/me/my agent/my husband down. I questioned whether I could ever repeat what I did with Godblind, whether I had a future in writing at all, whether I’d never sell another book series.
While I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, I’ve got things much more in perspective and am back on an even emotional keel. Gin helps. Not sulking and doing the damn work helps more.
There are authors out there who don’t suffer with second book syndrome. There are authors who profess to require very little input from their editors or agents. Authors who write effortlessly, painlessly. I am not those authors.
It’s ok to get it wrong. It’s ok to tear up an entire manuscript and start again. It’s ok to worry. And it’s ok to not do any of those things. If you are a writer to whom the words flow like water, congratulations. If you don’t want or need a heavy edit, congratulations. If you can crank out two good books a year, congratulations!
For me, the process of writing and editing Darksoul has been a huge and accelerated learning curve. Not just how to write, or writing to deadline, but starting to think critically about the aspects of a book and a book within a trilogy. To ensure that the second book is exciting enough to hold readers’s attention on its own. To make sure that although it’s a middle book, there are conclusions reached. To take criticism and explore suggestions from others rationally. To be prepared to make sweeping and fundamental changes to your narrative on the advice of those who know what they’re talking about, even if that means your concluding novel starts from somewhere very different to how you always envisioned it.
To understand that an editor is there to make your work better, even if it hurts or it means you have to cut a favourite chapter/scene or even character.
There’s no one easy way to be a writer, no foolproof method that anyone and everyone can adopt to create a book/novella/short story/haiku/humorous limerick. Find the method that works for you, be prepared to take advice and act on it, be prepared to feel like a fraud, be prepared to make mistakes. Most of all, be prepared to do the work no matter what.
Some days writing is effortless for me – a scene or entire chapter will happen and it won’t need major work. Other days it’s like trying to learn a language that no one knows. For me, writing is challenging, exciting, hard but always rewarding. I’m lucky enough to be doing my dream job, and I understand what a privileged position I’m in to be writing stories for a living. It makes the bad days easier to bear, and it makes the setbacks harder to bear.
But most of all, it makes every day a good day, no matter what.